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New Jersey, Middle Atlantic state of the E United States. It is bordered by New York State (N and, across the Hudson River and New York Harbor, E), the Atlantic Ocean (E), Delaware, across Delaware Bay and River (SW), and Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River (W).
Facts and Figures
New Jersey is surrounded by water except along the 50 mi (80 km) of northern border with New York state. The northern third of the state lies within the Appalachian Highland region, where ridges running northeast and southwest shelter valleys containing pleasant streams and glacial lakes. Beyond the crest of wooded slopes are long-established farms given over to dairying and field crops. The Kittatinny Mts., with the state's highest elevations (up to 1,803 ft/550 m), stretch across the northwest corner of New Jersey from the New York border to the Delaware Water Gap. In 1961 New Jersey, along with three other states and the federal government, signed the Delaware River Basin Compact, providing for the control of water resources and rights throughout the Delaware River basin.
Southeast of the Highlands lie the Triassic lowlands or piedmont plains, extending from the northeastern border to Trenton, the capital, and encompassing every major city of the state except Camden and Atlantic City. The monotony of the lowlands is broken by ancient trap-rock ridges that extend to the Palisades of the Hudson, and many commuter towns lie along the wooded slopes. East of Newark, the largest city, and Hackensack acres of tidal marshes have been converted to industrial, office, and commercial use. This area, called the Meadowlands, also contains a huge sports and entertainment complex. Drainage is provided by the state's major rivers, the Passaic, the Raritan, and the Hackensack.
The busy lowlands give way in the southeast to the coastal plains, which cover more than half the state. The coast itself is highly developed as a resort area. Offshore barrier islands make large harbors impractical but provide 115 mi (185 km) of sheltered waterways that have made possible a superior combination of bay and ocean facilities. Inland from the coast lie the Pine Barrens, a vast area of forests, small rivers, and few settlements.
Only four states are smaller in size than New Jersey, yet New Jersey ranks ninth in the nation in population and has the highest population density of any U.S. state, facts owing in part to its proximity to both New York City and Philadelphia but also indicative of its economic importance. New Jersey is a major industrial center, an important transportation corridor and terminus, and a long-established playground for summer vacationers.
The state is noted for its output of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, machinery, and a host of other products, including electronic equipment, printed materials, and processed foods. Bayonne is the terminus of pipelines originating in Texas and Oklahoma, and there are oil refineries at Linden and Carteret. The long history of heavy industry in New Jersey has left the state with the largest inventory of U.S. Superfund sites, and industrial cleanup is an important issue in its cities.
New Jersey has been a leader in industrial research and development since the establishment in 1876 of Thomas Edison's research facility in Menlo Park. Color televison, the videotape recorder, and the liquid crystal display were invented in New Jersey corporate research labs. Today telecommunications and biotechnology are major industries in the state, and the area near Princeton has developed into a notable high-tech center. Finance, warehousing, and “big box” retailing have also become important to the state's economy, attracting corporations and shoppers and to a large extent reversing New Jersey's onetime role as a suburb for commuters to New York City and Philadelphia.
A tremendous transportation system, concentrated in the industrial lowlands, moves products and a huge volume of interstate traffic through the state. Busy highways like the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike are part of a network of toll roads and freeways. New Jersey is linked to Delaware and Pennsylvania by many bridges across the Delaware River. Traffic to and from New York is served by railway and subway tunnels and by the facilities of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland vehicular tunnels, and three bridges to Staten Island. Airports are operated by many cities, and Newark airport (controlled by the Port Authority) ranks among the nation's busiest. Shipping in New Jersey centers on the ports of the Newark Bay and New York Bay areas—notably Port Newark and Port Elizabeth—with relatively minor seagoing traffic on the Delaware as far north as Trenton.
This extensive transportation network also serves to maintain New Jersey's well-known vacation industry, reaching ocean beaches, inland lakes, forests, and mountain resort areas. Atlantic City's emergence as a casino gambling center has made it the largest visitor destination in the state.
In addition to being a center of industry, transportation, and tourism, New Jersey is a leading state in agricultural income per acre. The scrub pine area of the southern inland region is used for cranberry and blueberry culture. North of the pine belt the soil is extremely fertile and supports a variety of crops, most notably potatoes, corn, hay, peaches, and vegetables (especially tomatoes and asparagus). Dairy products, eggs, and poultry are also important. Commercial and residential expansion, however, has taken over much of the state's farmland, and New Jersey is now almost one third developed.
Government, Politics, and Higher Education
The New Jersey legislature consists of a senate of 40 members and an assembly of 80 members. The governor serves a four-year term and may be reelected once. New Jersey sends 12 representatives and 2 senators to the U.S. Congress and has 14 electoral votes. Although Democrats outnumber Republicans in registered voters (by over a million people, as of June 2021), control of the governorship has alternated between the two parties over the last five decades.
New Jersey's two best-known institutions of higher learning were established in the 18th cent.—Princeton Univ., at Princeton, as the College of New Jersey in 1746; and Rutgers Univ., mainly at New Brunswick, as Queen's College in 1766. Among other New Jersey educational institutions are Fairleigh Dickinson Univ., with three campuses; Seton Hall Univ., mainly at South Orange; Stevens Institute of Technology, at Hoboken; the Univ. of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, with five campuses; and a number of state colleges. The Institute for Advanced Study, at Princeton, is one of the leading research centers of the country.
Early Settlement to Statehood
The history of New Jersey goes back to Dutch and Swedish communities established prior to settlement by the English. Dutch claims to the Hudson and Delaware valleys were based on the voyages of Henry Hudson, who sailed into Newark Bay in 1609. Under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company patroonships were offered for settlement, and small colonies were located on the present sites of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Gloucester City.
Swedes and Finns of New Sweden, who predominated in the Delaware Valley after 1638, were annexed by the New Netherland colony in 1655. In 1664, New Netherland was seized for the English, but the Dutch disputed this claim. Proprietorship of lands between the Hudson (at lat. 41°N) and the northernmost point of the Delaware was granted to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. The original grants to Berkeley and Carteret divided the region in two. The split was further defined in the Quintipartite Deed of 1676, which divided the province into East and West Jersey. East Jersey was held by Carteret.
In 1681 William Penn and 11 other Quakers purchased East Jersey from Carteret's widow. In both Jerseys confusion resulting from the unwieldy number of landowners together with widespread resentment against authority caused the proprietors to surrender voluntarily their governmental powers to the crown in 1702, although they retained their land rights. New Jersey's independence from New York was recognized, but authority was vested in the governor of New York until 1738, when Lewis Morris was appointed governor of New Jersey alone. Under the royal governors the same problems persisted—land titles were in dispute and opposition to the proprietors culminated in riots in the 1740s.
East Jersey was dominated by Calvinism, implanted by Scottish and New England settlers, while in West Jersey the Quakers soon developed a landed aristocracy with strong political and economic influence. Anti-British sentiment gradually spread from its stronghold in East Jersey throughout the colony and took shape in Committees of Correspondence. Although the Tory party was to prove strong enough to raise six Loyalist battalions, the patriot cause was generally accepted, and in June, 1776, the provincial congress adopted a constitution and declared New Jersey a state.
The Revolution and Economic Expansion
Because of its strategic position, New Jersey was of major concern in the American Revolution. Washington's memorable Christmas attack on the Hessians at Trenton in 1776, followed by his victory at Princeton, restored the confidence of the patriots. In June, 1778, Washington fought another important battle in New Jersey, at Monmouth. Altogether, about 90 engagements were fought in the state, and Washington moved his army across it four times, wintering twice at Morristown.
At the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, the delegates from New Jersey sponsored the cause of the smaller states and carried the plan for equal representation in the Senate. New Jersey was the third state to ratify (Dec., 1787) the Constitution of the United States. By this time New Jersey's population had grown from an estimated 15,000 in 1700 to approximately 184,000. Trenton became the state's capital in 1790. Agriculture had been supplemented by considerable mining and processing of copper and iron and by the production of lumber, leather, and glass.
During the next 50 years, a period of enormous economic expansion, the dominance of the landed aristocracy gave way to industrial growth and to a more democratic state government. The important textile industry, powered by the falls of the Passaic, was initiated at Paterson. Potteries, shoe factories, and brickworks were built. Roads were improved, the Morris Canal and the Delaware and Raritan canals were chartered, and the Camden and Amboy RR completed a line from New York to Philadelphia with monopoly privileges.
Governmental Reform and Civil War
Political Struggles and a New Constitution
By 1865 the pattern of the state's development was molded. Population and industry showed rapid and steady growth. Large economic interests grasped control of political power, giving rise to sporadic but unsustained popular movements for reform. The Camden and Amboy RR was transferred by lease to the Pennsylvania RR in 1871, and its monopolistic power was lessened by legislation opening the state to all rail lines and by the assessment and taxation of railroad properties.
After the 1870s easy incorporation laws and low corporation tax rates attracted new trusts to incorporate through “dummy” offices in the state. There was much liberal sentiment against the power of “big business.” A general reform movement sponsored by Woodrow Wilson when he was governor (1910–12) resulted in such legislation as the direct primary, a corrupt practices act, and the “Seven Sisters” acts for the regulation of trusts (later repealed).
The state voted predominantly Democratic from the Civil War until 1896. Since that time it has frequently voted Republican in national elections, and in state politics it has often divided power between Democratic governors and Republican legislatures. The powerful political machine of Frank Hague, centered in Jersey City, wielded great influence in the Democratic party from 1913 until 1949, when it was defeated by insurgents within its ranks.
In 1947 a new constitution was framed and accepted to replace the antiquated constitution of 1844. The liberal Bill of Rights was preserved and extended, governmental departments were streamlined, the cumbersome court system was simplified, the executive power was strengthened, and labor's right to organize and bargain collectively was recognized. In 1966 another convention was called to rewrite those portions of the 1947 constitution invalidated by application of the U.S. Supreme Court's “one man, one vote” rule to state legislatures. The convention drafted sweeping revisions, which were approved by the electorate in Nov., 1966.
The Democrats held the governor's seat from the mid-'50s until 1970 during the terms of Robert B. Meyner (1954-1962) and Richard J. Hughes (1962-1970), who instituted the state's first sales tax and was the only governor to date to also serve as Chief Justice of the state's Supreme Court (1973-1980).
Racial Tensions and New Economic Development
A six-day race riot in Newark in July, 1967, drew attention to the urgent need for social and political reform in many of the state's urban centers. During the early 1970s the state government proposed plans for massive urban renewal and economic development projects, but the trend of movement away from central cities increased throughout the 1970s and 1980s and into the 1990s.
During this period, New Jersey lost thousands of manufacturing jobs but replaced them through the dramatic development of the economy's service and trade sectors. In 1976 the state legalized casino gambling and in 1978 the first casino opened in Atlantic City. The Meadowlands Sports Complex opened in 1976 and now includes a football stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets professional football teams, and an indoor arena. Through this period, the state's governorship has flipped between Democratic and Republican hands, although both parties tended to nominate centrist candidates like Democrat Brendan Byrne (1974-1982) and Republicans Tom Kean (1982-1990; later a cochair of the 9/11 Commission) and Christine Todd Whitman (1994-2001; subsequently EPA Commissioner, 2001-03), New Jersey's only female governor to date. Chris Christie introduced a more combative style to the governor's chair during his two-term rule (2010-18), cutting state programs and spending, and using the governorship as a platform for his (unfulfilled) presidential ambitions. In 2017 Democrat Philip D. Murphy was elected governor, and was narrowly reelected in 2021.
New Jersey was hard-hit by recession in the early 1990s and the state suffered from overdevelopment, but increasing economic diversity had fueled a recovery by the decade's end. Many of the state's numerous shore communities and resorts suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
See I. S. Kull, ed., New Jersey: A History (5 vol., 1930); J. E. Pomfret, The Province of West New Jersey, 1609–1702 (1956) and The Province of East New Jersey, 1609–1702 (1962); K. Widmer, The Geography and Geology of New Jersey (1965); J. T. Cunningham, Colonial New Jersey (1971); J. E. Pomfret, Colonial New Jersey (1973); C. A. Stansfield, Jr., New Jersey: A Geography (1983); A. Bernard and L. Sante, New Jersey: An American Portrait (1986); J. Monninger, New Jersey (1987); M. N. Lurie et al., New Jersey: A History of the Garden State (2012).
New Jersey State Information
Area (sq mi):: 8721.30 (land 7417.34; water 1303.96) Population per square mile: 1175.30
Population 2005: 8,717,925 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 3.60%; 1990-2000 8.90% Population 2000: 8,414,350 (White 66.00%; Black or African American 13.60%; Hispanic or Latino 13.30%; Asian 5.70%; Other 8.10%). Foreign born: 17.50%. Median age: 36.70
Income 2000: per capita $27,006; median household $55,146; Population below poverty level: 8.50% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $38,365-$39,577
Unemployment (2004): 4.90% Unemployment change (from 2000): 1.20% Median travel time to work: 30.00 minutes Working outside county of residence: 45.20%
List of New Jersey counties:
New Jersey Parks
- US National Parks
- Urban Parks
- State Parks
- Parks and Conservation-Related Organizations - US
- National Wildlife Refuges
a state in the eastern USA, located primarily on the marshy Atlantic Coastal Plain, with its northern section in the foothills of the Appalachians. Area, 20,300 sq km; population, 7.2 million (1971), of which 88.9 percent is urban. Capital, Trenton.
New Jersey is one of the most urbanized and economically developed states. It ranks first in the USA as the most densely populated, having more than 350 persons per sq km. In 1970 860,000 people were employed in manufacturing (more than one-third of New Jersey’s work force). Industrial enterprises, located primarily in the suburbs of New York and Philadelphia, use raw materials that are shipped into the state. The leading branches are machine building (electrical and radio electronic equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft engines and other aviation industry, and automotive assembly) and chemicals (petroleum refining and rubber). Other industries include clothing, knitwear, textiles (the manufacture of synthetic fibers), nonferrous metallurgy, and glass and pottery. Zinc is mined (27,000 tons in 1970). The capacity of the state’s hydroelectric power plants was 10 gigawatts in 1972. One percent of the work force is engaged in agriculture. There is a predominance of suburban farming, including vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and eggs.
Third state; adopted the U.S. Constitution on December 18, 1787
State capital: Trenton
Nickname: The Garden State
State motto: Liberty and Prosperity
State animal: Horse (Equus caballus)
State bird: Eastern goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
State dance: Square dance
State dinosaur: Hadrosaurus foulki
State fish: Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
State flower: Purple violet (Viola sororia)
State fruit: Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
State insect: Honeybee (Apis mellifera)
State memorial tree: Dogwood (Cornus florida)
State shell: Knobbed whelk (Busycon Caricagmelin)
State ship: A.J. Meerwald
State tree: Red oak (Quercus borealis maxima)
More about state symbols at:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 837
AnnivHol-2000, p. 210
State web site:
Office of the Governor
125 W State St
Trenton, NJ 08625
Secretary of State
125 W State St
PO Box 300
Trenton, NJ 08625
New Jersey State Library
185 N State St
PO Box 520
Trenton, NJ 08625